Whether you’re an XC racing hammer head, enduro charger, or flats wearing freerider, a good pair of mountain bike shoes can enhance your ride. The best offer a balanced mix of comfort, function, durability, and style. Mtbr spent the better part of a week at the Eurobike and Interbike trade shows, and along the way spotted all manner of footwear. Here is the best of what we saw.
Shimano S-Phyre Collection
If you knew nothing about the cycling world and were dropped into Shimano’s Interbike booth you’d assume this was a footwear company. Like a lot of large brands, Shimano had a reduced presence in Las Vegas, this year choosing to focus on its expanding softgoods line, but not show its myriad road and MTB components. That meant shoes, lots and lots of shoes.
The highlight was the Japanese company’s new high end road (RC9) and mountain (XC9) shoes that fall under the new S-Phyre nomenclature, which is essentially the Shimano softgoods version of Dura Ace or XTR. Both S-Phyre shoes feature a one-piece outer constructed from supple, stretch-resistant and breathable microfiber synthetic leather. Perforated dimple vents make the shoes more flexible, providing a glove-like fit. The surround wrap upper also better accommodates a wider range of foot shapes, now enabling up to E+ wide widths in a standard size. Two Boa IP1 dials allow for quick and precise micro-adjustments in 1mm increments. Other features include a single-seam design and offset cinch, to alleviate pressure and hot spots.
The XC9, which have a stiffness rating of 11 (12 is max, and only found on road shoes) is a no-holds-barred cross-country race offerings. It features Boa’s power zone lacing, which allows further tension adjustment via an extra wire loop, and the outsole is made by rubber experts Michelin. It also has a reinforced spike mounting area, so if you are racing in the slop and want to attach longer, aftermarket spikes, you’ll be less likely to snap them off and damage the sole. Color options are black, blue, and yellow. Price for either road or mountain shoes is $400. For more information please visit bike.shimano.com.
Finally, if hard charging XC racing is not your thing, the new Shimano ME7 are worth a look. These are the successor to the M200, sharing a similar feature set, including lace cover. But the outsole now uses a dual compound tread designed in conjunction with Michelin. Shimano made adjustments to the toe box, which is now taller to accommodate a wider variety of foot shapes and improve ventilation. Price is $200. For more info, check out our coverage here.
Pearl Izumi X Project Pro
Colorado-based Pearl Izumi has tweaked its top-flight X Project MTB shoe with a completely new sole that’s aimed to be both stiffer when on the bike, but more comfortable when off. Designers shifted the position of the carbon sole plate so that it reaches the base your foot’s metatarsal head up front, and runs all the way to the front edge of the heel in back. That means plenty of stiffness when pedaling, but good walking flex, too.
To help keep weight down, the outsole is compromised of hollow TPU lugs with rubber tips co-molded on for improved traction. Up top is a seamless upper outfitted with a pair of two-way Boa dials that allow for easy on-the-fly micro-adjustment, while also delivering even tension without pressure or hot spots. The X Project Pro comes in matte black or orange and sells for $350.
One step down is the X Project Elite ($275), which has just a single Boa dial and utilizes a more robust, but heavier upper material. Along with a host of in-line color offerings, Pearl Izumi is selling 200 pairs of custom Amy D. Foundation models, with $100 of the $275 sale price being donated to this charity that was set-up in memory of fallen rider Amy Dombrowski, and benefits young aspiring female racers and riders. The Amy D shoe will be available starting in November, with the rest of the new offerings coming online in January. To learn more please visit www.pearlizumi.com.
For the XC charger willing to spare no expense in the quest for race day supremacy, the Sidi Tiger is for you. Features of this lightweight shoe include dual Techno 3 Precision Ratchet closures, a stiff carbon sole with replaceable cleat wear plate, and increased padding on the tongue.
There’s also a built-in toe guard, heel retention system, and reflective accents just in case you get caught out on the road. Sizes run 41-48, with half sizes from 41.5 to 46.5. Color options are the pictured white/matte black or a flashy bright yellow/black. Just try not to scuff them up. Price for a pair of these bad boys is a hefty $550. For more info visit www.sidi.com.